Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Partisan Priorities Push Laurel Under the Redistricting Bus

The Maryland Senate approved the Governor's redistricting map today.

Unfortunately Laurel's own State Senator Jim Rosapepe voted for moving Laurel into the new 4th District horse shoe.  It was a party-line vote.  Here's the link with the details.

Note:  Here is the latest story from the Leader.

If the Maryland House agrees, Laurel becomes congressional roadkill.  We've been thrown under the bus because of partisan priorities.  All of this pain to get 8 out of 8 congressional seats elected as Democrats instead of 7 of 8.  Such a pity.

This has been a disappointing day for me.  These legislators are smart, hardworking, and dedicated people.  Many of them I count as personal friends and mentors.  But there is something corrosive in our state and in our nation.  It's deadly and it has metastasized.  It's a cancer cell that looks a lot like this new Maryland congressional redistricting map.

I guess I should have seen it coming years ago.  But I wasn't paying close attention because I've never been partisan.  The only question that ever matters to me is what's best for the community.  Red, Blue, White, Black, who cares? 

What's important is simple --  jobs, education, public safety, quality of life, hope for our kids.  Does it really matter if it's a republican or a democrat bill that gets my brother a job?  Or a democrat's bill that educates my grandchildren?  We've lost sight of what matters in Maryland.  Partisanship is blinding us.  Partisanship is blinding our legislators.  It's killing common sense and shared purpose.

I've been told by legislators that it was too late to stop the bill and get the drafters to reconsider.  That strikes me odd.  Our legislators have known about the Governor's redistricting map for weeks.  Did they really think that the proposed 4th district monstrosity was the best deal for Laurel? Or did they hope that we wouldn't mind being treated as a bridge to nowhere.  Hey Laurel, here it comes, take one for the team!

Some have told me not to worry.  That it really doesn't matter which congressional district Laurel is located.  I'm told we will be taken care of.  But how can that be?  A congressional district is so much more than a collection of voting drones who are expected to blindly vote like some party consultant predicts.  Oh, you are white, vote this way.  You are black, you vote that way.  Stay in your lane.  Don't worry.  How cynical! 

I long for the day when we hold a candidate's partisanship in contempt.  When we are as quick to dump a candidate for excessive partisanship as we would vote against them today for illicit sexual escapades or their tax policies.  Hey congressman, you voted 200 times last session and 200 times you voted with your party.  Come on congressman, you expect me to believe that you have my best interests at heart?  There were no votes where our interests rose above your party's?

If all we are going to have are party-line votes -- we don't need to send as many legislators to Annapolis or Washington. We should just send two people to vote in proportion to the latest election results.  We will save a ton of money by eliminating all the rest of the legislators and their staffs. Hell, if they are not going to think independently with their district's best interests in mind, why go through the charade of electing them?

No, a congressional district is not a random group of unaffiliated people.  It's a group of people striving to define a shared vision based on their similarities, common interests and local problems.  Geography matters so much more than race, party or economic situation. 

A congressman, the best kind, leads a community to create that vision.  They help us identify our shared problems.  They bind us together and help us grow a shared purpose to rally around.  They unite our state, local and federal leaders to solve our problems and work to make our lives better.  Geography matters.

I'm so disheartened today over the loss of community, of what we could become -- for what we deserve to become -- all because of cynical, raw, partisan politics.

Geography matters because community matters.  That's what makes us American.

If you would like to contact our 21st Delegation and ask them why they feel that the proposed 4th congressional district is best for Laurel.  Or why they did not mobilize the community weeks ago to get our input, here is their contact info:

Senator Rosapepe - jim.rosapepe@senate.state.md.us
Delegate Frush - barbara.frush@house.state.md.us
Delegate Barnes - Ben.Barnes@house.state.md.us
Delegate Pena-Melnyk - joseline.pena.melnyk@house.state.md.us


Rick Wilson
Laurel, MD


LaceyT said...

I'm so glad you so eloquently expressed what my husband and I are feeling. We moved to Laurel 2 years because of the sense of community and the feeling that it was seen as a unique place to live. After this, it seems we as the community are the only ones who get it. I am also discouraged as I am a Republican and my vote barely counted in this state as it was. These new districts have silenced us even further and that is discouraging. You make a good point though about assumptions being made about how people vote based on where they live. It's just more frustration with the system that seems to fail us over and over again. I sincerely hope that the next election brings strong candidates who will not only LISTEN to those who elected them, but also ACT for us!

WalshCEBS said...

Congressional Steny Hoyer and the current governor are behind this realignmnet. Our citizens need simply to vote all the incumbents out: red or blue. Studies show that major banking groups and global corporations give the most money to politicna. The own our representatives. Please organize your friendly "insurgents" provide fundin and then thro the incumbents out, please.

Michael Malone said...

This is a betrayal of public trust. There is really no other way to put it. We've been put in a district represented by a senator who opposed including us (and I don't blame her a bit, it makes no sense.) I'm not going to cry about it, but our representatives are quite mistaken if they think we're not going to take this out of their electoral hide this next election. You can see it in the Tea Party and Occupy Wall St. It's the season of discontent. Our recourse is to punish those who made this decision by depriving them of further opportunities to do so. Our votes together count!

Rick Wilson said...

Lacey - Welcome to Laurel! We have a big tent and we even have a few closet republicans here. Shh - don't out them. Don't get me wrong our current delegation includes great people. Rosapepe, Frush, Barnes and Pena-Melnyk are wonderful. We have a dedicated Mayor and City Council in Moe, Smalls, Robison, Leszcz and Cary. Mary Lehman, our county council member is a pure joy to meet and she will work like a dog for us. These are all smart, dedicated neighbors and public servants. But I fear that they find themselves caught in a corrosive partisan environment here in MD. They are stuck and we find ourselves stuck as well. But I'm hopeful that we will turn the corner. Thanks for sharing. We need to move to a post partisan model where people come before party. Please be sure to contact our state representatives. Tell them what you think but I always try to remind myself that they are trying their best in a difficult, crazy environment.

Rick Wilson said...

Barney - Thanks for commenting.

Rick Wilson said...

Dr. Mike - Thanks for the comments. WE always have the ability to vote the bums out. But until we can fix the corrosive nature of party politics, I fear that the new people will ultimately succumb to the same disease. These are not evil people. They are good people in an evil system. And I'm worried that we may all be partially to blame. I'm just as guilty as the next guy. I get lazy and rely on party slogans instead of thinking the issue through for myself. I sit by while parties slam each other. I should call them out when they do that. My own sins make me responsible for the sins in the world. Thanks again for digging into a complex issue and helping us to find our way back to community-based politics.

SteveH said...

Well stated Rick, very well stated! Thanks for putting into words what many of us are thinking/feeling.

netvillage said...

"but our representatives are quite mistaken if they think we're not going to take this out of their electoral hide this next election"

You will forget. You always do. (I don't mean you personally, but in general). You'll vote along party lines once again. Walk-in, pull the lever for 'your team'. O'malley gave us the biggest tax increase in Maryland history. Did he suffer? No. Why? Straight from Machiavelli: "examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits". Basically do the dirty deed up-front so you can get it behind you and people forgot. You may remember when O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said "He feels we need to move forward quickly and get this behind us". We’ve got a while till election day. No one will remember.

Rick Wilson said...

Thanks Steve, Thanks for commenting.

Michael Malone said...


I agree that makes for sound political strategy and used to get slots thru. It's depressing to think that it could be used over and over again. With observant individuals such as yourself, it doesn't have to be so. I opposed slots and it guided my voting (to the degree that was possible). It also wouldn't be the first time voters went for 'change'. I'm optimistic Thanks for the reminder.


Michael Malone said...

Rick - I agree they're not bums, but their complicity on an issue this large is, well, jaw-dropping. Well at least Jim's complicity. The house delegation can still choose the right thing.


Rick Wilson said...

Netvillage - Thanks for commenting but I must respectfully disagree with your attacks on Governor O'Malley. The Governor is not evil, Sen Rosapepe is not evil -- the system is evil.

Perhaps I am to blame. Maybe all of us are. I took my eye off the ball these last few years. I guess I was busy watching America's Idol or Dancing with the stars. I let the harsh partisan talking heads define politics for me. I stopped voting. I vilified elected officials and maybe my apathy drove them into the party's bosom. They turned to party to fund them, to give them protection and to make them feel important. Shrill rhetoric replaced reasonable compromise because I stopped paying attention.

The way out of this mess is not to throw the bums out but instead to give these dedicated, hard-working elected officials an alternative to their party. I believe that this alternative is community-based.

Imagine how much we can accomplish if we work to help our elected officials just say no to cynical, corrosive party politics?

Thanks again for commenting.

Michael Malone said...


I can relate to the complacency. Our hope lies in the fact that this is our fault. Otherwise, we would have no hope of changing the problem.

Warfield Tract Res. said...

As i said yesterday.I'am not sure who "The Team" represents but it ain't us.Sorry rick but the All need to go the sooner the better.
Chris E

Tom Dernoga said...


I agree with many of your comments and marvel at your restraint in spite of your frustration. I also share your positive feelings about our State representatives, and the awkward political situations that an official can find oneself in. It’s easy to complain about go-along-to-get-along actions, but it’s a lot harder when you are the elected official that has to choose – on an issue-by-issue basis – whether a particular matter is so important that you have to vote against it no matter what, or whether your single vote is so insignificant to the outcome that you would prefer to stay within the good graces of party leaders and colleagues so that you can serve your constituents effectively on future issues that they care about. As an elected official, you have to make this call constantly and then try to explain it (one hopes) to your dissatisfied constituents. Then, it is up to them to decide whether you made a tough, but understandable decision, or that they should just vote for someone else next time.

However, in cases like this one, I would criticize our State reps for a major faux pas. This is advice that I gave to Mary Lehman upon our transition – sometimes you and/or your legislative colleagues will vote in a manner that many of your constituents do not agree with. That happens, and you can provide your explanation. However, the one thing you can never explain satisfactorily is why you did not inform your constituents that a matter contrary to their interests was coming before your legislative body and why you did not provide them with timely information to educate themselves and effectively petition the body to change course.

You cannot guarantee outcomes, but you can guarantee process, fairness and timely access to information. As best as I can tell, that did not happen here. If the first time you realized what was happening, Rick, was just prior to the Senate vote, that is an oversight. If the first time most people heard about this was when you turned into town crier, that is very unfortunate. I looked at the State web site and the Commission’s plan was issued 10/4. The Governor issued his 10/15 (Saturday), with Senate action starting on 10/17.

Hopefully, our State reps will learn from this issue and ensure that we get bad news sufficiently in advance to at least speak out more effectively. Thanks for being our crier, Rick.


Rick Wilson said...

Chris thanks for the comment but what good will it do to throw them out? We will simply put new people in a broken system. Nope I think we need to fix the system first. I'm pretty sure that the folks we have will be fine if we can get them out from under the party's spell. They are all good people.

Rick Wilson said...

Tom: Wise advice. I hope every elected official heeds it.

Thanks for the kind words but I'm no crier, I'm just a guy sitting on Laurel Ave mostly minding his own business (with an internet connection).

Anonymous said...

So what? I mean, what, really, are you even talking about? I just keep hearing these wistful and nonsensical complaints about "community." (You've been relentless on the old town laurel mailing list, but I am not responding there because I selfishly want to retain my ability to disengage at some point SOON - you clearly care about this issue MUCH more than I do). There are 350ish million Americans and only 435 congressional seats. There have been 743,000 people in district 5 (1/419 the US population making us slightly underrepresented). I don't have a "community" with them, not in St Mary's county any more than Anne Arundel, and barely the rest of Laurel (I like my neighbors, but I could barely name 50 of them), so I don't comprehend what you must be pining for. I like my state delegates just fine, and I am willing to trade congresspersons to get rid of a republican in district 6 - redistricting is dirty, but there's no use complaining about rational behavior within the system unless you are proposing a path to an alternative system, or at least a way to protect yourself once the shoe is on the other foot. The "other foot" is not Donna Edwards by any stretch of the imagination - It's republican politicians. They're out to get you, even (perhaps especially), if you are a republican voter, whether you live in their districts or not.

If you use this as an excuse to vote against someone who's been on your side, real issue for issue (procedural complaints such as this notwithstanding), there's something lacking in your long term thinking skills. I look at the District 21 team, and I couldn't imagine trading them for a completely meaningless sense of community with St. Mary's county (I'm sure they're great, but this "sense" is insane). Hoyer's still in congress, and if you think he cares any less about your individual needs as Laurelites, that's a clear sign that you were over-estimating his interest in your needs in the first place. You each better multiply it by 1/743,000 or start making a broader, more concrete case for uh, whatever it is that you are upset about. Something eventually tangible, I hope.

Rick Wilson said...

I want to thank every one for engaging in the discussion. It's been enlightening.